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Rise in solar panel scams in France and how to spot the tricks

Homeowners looking to install solar panels warned to be sceptical of ‘too good to be true’ deals

There are 325,939 solar panel systems for personal use in France, 77% more than a year ago Pic: AlyoshinE / Shutterstock

As electricity prices rise, so too does the popularity of solar panels, proving fertile ground for unscrupulous companies.

There are numerous recent examples in the French press of people who have fallen victim to scams.

One couple said they spent €27,900 to install solar panels that proved to be faulty.

The installer, who had claimed to be a partner of energy company Engie, was impossible to get hold of.

Read more: Tips to avoid energy renovation scams in France after warning issued

How the scammers work

Claiming to have a partnership with a recognisable organisation is one of many techniques used to trick customers. 

A 2018 investigation by France’s anti-fraud body, the DGCCRF, revealed that many renewable energy companies choose names that are similar to national agencies to cause confusion.

They sometimes use terms such as agence, contrôle or commission.

Others have been enticed by offers to install panels for €1 when no government grant schemes are able to fully cover the cost of installation. 

In practice, this is usually funded by a consumer credit loan the client agrees to take out upon signing.

Another common technique is to make clients sign an order form when they believe they are simply agreeing to a feasibility study.

Read more: There is now a new way of reporting scams and fraud in France

How to check before signing

When looking to install solar panels, you should be wary of salespeople who call or knock on your door, and you should check any claims about available grants.

You should not sign anything immediately, and you can evaluate any quotes at this website.

The Groupement des Particuliers Producteurs d'Electricité Photovoltaïque (GPPEP) represents victims of scams.

There are 325,939 solar panel systems set up for personal use in France, 77% more than a year ago.

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